Screw Plan B!

If you’re working on your first book/film/creative “thing”, at some point you’ll send it to an expert (or a buyer) who, you hope, will be instrumental in getting you published, on the big screen or otherwise into  the world.

While you wait for their verdict, you might find yourself in a form of limbo because (in your view) their view might be the thing that determines what direction you take next:

Plan A – Living the dream!
Plan B – Self-publish… trash the project… hide out in Bali… qualify as a shrink… start a finger painting club… become a monk…

If your expert declares that your work is “Genius and Ready To Go!” then Plan A it is. But if the verdict is slightly south of average, you might think you have no choice but to move to Plan B.

You’re a realist, right? Especially if you have a family to support. But you’re also a dreamer. So your thinking might go something like this:

“I have a dream to be a best selling writer/director/artist… AND I have a family to support. I don’t have a trust fund, so I have to earn a living while I create my magic. HOWEVER, I need time and mental space to create said magic, BUT I can’t spend an unknown length of time walking the tightrope between a practical job and creating my dream. SO, what to do?”

Do you create a Plan B in case your art is kicked back? Do you go to Plan B even though every minute you spend on Plan B saps the core out your soul?

What if you took the chance and focused completely and unflinchingly on Plan A? What if Plan B never entered your head? Would you write/paint/create in a different way if there was no Plan B? Would Plan A be better, smarter and more determined? If there was no Plan B, would you find a way for Plan A to work no matter what?

I think, when we give ourselves an out, we’ve already decided to quit. So no Plan B.

Be Brave, folks. Stick with it.
Tina

 

Procrastination gets a bad rap

What if procrastination isn’t a bad thing? What if it’s a critical part of the creative process? I’m not making excuses for either of us, I’m just asking the question: What if there’s a reason you’re not forging ahead with your cunning plan?

Here are more questions… Instead of beating yourself up because you’re not “getting on with it” ask yourself: What’s missing? Am I ready for the fallout if it goes wrong? Am I ready for the fallout if it goes right? Is the idea ready? Is the idea big enough/small enough/clear enough?

Maybe it needs to stew a little longer?

And there you have it…

Maybe the thing you’re avoiding just needs to stew a little longer. Maybe the idea is a good one, but you’re missing a key ingredient. Maybe it has to sit in its juices for a while to mature before you put it into the world. Maybe procrastination isn’t procrastination at all… maybe its being patient.

Have a most mellow day, folks
Tina

P.S. Here’s a TED talk I think you’ll enjoy. It’s by Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

 

 

You’re your own writer. Do what works for you…

When you’Write your own way - Tina Konstant on Writingre up a ladder, any ladder, it’s natural to look at people who have made it to the top already, see what they did to reach those lofty heights and copy/model/emulate… call it what you like… 

In a writer’s world, that could mean taking advice from one successful writer and getting up and 4 a.m. to write for three hours. That’s “Golden Time”. Or, taking advice from another author and sitting at your desk for eight hours straight regardless of what comes out. Perhaps you’ll follow the time honoured wisdom of writing every day no matter how you feel. Or do a Dame Barbara Cartland and write in bed (I think that’s the myth).

The trouble with doing what other people do, is that that’s what OTHER PEOPLE do.

If we all did what other people did, we’d end up with nothing original. Now, I tried working at 4 a.m. and quite honestly, I was too irritable to write a damn thing. I tried to write in bed, but fell asleep. I sat at my desk for eight hours and got a sore arse.

What other people do doesn’t work for me and most likely won’t work for you, because watching other people up their own ladders and copying what they do only gives us a small piece of their personal puzzle. We only see what stands out.

There’s a successful climber who wears orange. So you wear orange. There’s another one who sings Yankee Doodle. So you sing your heart out. What you miss is the single common factor they all have. They’re all taking one step at a time in an upward direction.

So it doesn’t matter whether you write in bed, an office, on a beach, in a coffee shop, or on the back of your hand. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at dawn, noon or dusk. It doesn’t matter if you drink white tea, black tea, green tea or coffee. The single thing that all successful writers do is WRITE. One word at a time.

It’s that simple.

How you do it is up to you.

So do yourself a favour… Look to yourself. What works for you? What fits in your world?

Instead of trying to mimic your hero’s habits, read their output and produce your own in your own time and in your own way.

Your best writing time might be at 11 p.m. on your neighbours roof. You might like to write by hand and type it in later. You might like to write unplanned. You might like a cappuccino at your elbow. You might like to have three projects on the go. You might like to take days off from writing every now and then to let things soak. You might like post-it notes. Maybe your best work is done in the bath.

It’s about time you perpetuated your own myth, don’t you think?

Be happy, enjoy, hang with the bats.

Can you force story ideas?

Can you force story ideas?Sometimes story ideas seem to blossom out of the ether. One moment your mind is wondering about the to-dos of daily life and the next you have an idea for a story that seems complete from beginning to end. Nice. Sweeeeeeeet! 

But what happens when these ideas just aren’t there and it’s been days and weeks and, like an addict, you feel the need for a bit of flash? What do you do?!! Can you force story ideas? Do you wrestle an idea from your imagination like some premature pimple or do you chill, sit back, relax and wait for it to mature and explode fully formed?

A bit of each, I think.

If your head seems void of story words, you need to feed it, fill it up, then switch on the tap and keep it flowing until all the dregs run out and pure water flows.

From my experience, here are a few things to keep the process flowing and story worlds building.

ONE: READ. Dammit! Just READ! Read fiction. Read flash fiction. Read short stories. Read story magazine. Read novels. Read newspapers (another kind of fiction all together).

TWO: Don’t bother about word count. If you get stuck on a short story that feels like it needs to end but you’re only 500 words in, then end it! The right length for a story is as long as it takes to tell. No more, no less.

THREE: Ask questions about what you see around you. It’ll spark story after story…

Examples:

If you want stories to flow, you need to give them something to feed on, then open the lid, switch on the tap, spill the bucket… whatever metaphor works for you, and write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 140 character twitter story or a novel. A story is a story, no matter how long it takes to tell.

Be awesome folks.
Tina K.

You’re writing a novel, not making cupcakes!

You're writing a novel! It'll take longer than cupcakes to bake.Do not quit! Don’t you dare stop writing, carving, knitting, filming… just because it seems like nothing is happening. You’re writing a novel, not making cupcakes. You can’t expect a result in 23 minutes.

One of the greatest difficulties we have as human beings is to keep on a course of action even though it seems like nothing is happening. We want results. We want a response from the world. We want recognition and appreciation. We want it NOW! Dammit!!

It goes for everything we do whether we’re on a diet (it might have taken me 44 years to put on all my weight, what’s wrong with me wanting it gone in a month?) or building up a social network (I’m ready to talk now… I demand you listen!) to getting published (my genius is complete. Love me now!)

The truth is, even though you might have finally found your stride, the rest of the word needs time to decide to join you on your walk. If you quit, you’ll never know what’s at the end of the path. So keep going even if you think nothing is happening.

So you’re writing a novel. Feels like you’re in a vacuum. How long do you go on for?

Depends what your motives are.

If you’re doing what you’re doing to make guaranteed money fast, then no results for months and years doesn’t make sense. If you’re creating art, however, where there are no guarantees, then your motives need to be such that it doesn’t matter that you don’t see a result immediately. You’re writing, carving, knitting or filming for the sake of it. If the world never sees it, the fact that you’ve done it and just you and your cat love it, might be enough.

So to go Zen for a moment…

The world is connected in ways we’ll never fully comprehend. For as long as you keep going, the rest of the universe can do it’s thing. If you stop, everything the world has in mind for you will just pass you by because you won’t be ready. So keep going. Know with certainty that even though it seems like nothing is happening, the world is working for you.

When you really want to quit, what can you do?

ONE: Turn to someone who won’t let you. Any time I trot out my drama queen lines: “I can’t do it! Enough! Swoon!!” My husband tells me not to be an idiot and to get back to it.

TWO: Take a complete weekend off your main project, the one you think you’re getting no results from. Instead, do something quicker, easier, shorter. If you’re writing a novel, take a couple of days away from it and write a few short stories instead. If you’re sculpting a herd of life sized elephants, take time out and whittle out a bumble bee. Do something you can finish.

THREE: Take some time to work out what your motives are. What’s driving you? Are you writing your novel to make a lot of money fast? Or are you writing to eventually become the best writer you can be? Be really clear why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’ll help reconcile any frustrations you might be feeling about how long it takes to get the result you want.

Above all, be good to yourself. It’s good practice for being good to others…
Tina

Keep Calm… It’s just a novel! 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel freaks you out.

Keep Calm! It's just a novel.OMG!!!!! It’s been a month/a year/a decade and I haven’t finished my novel!!!!!!!! Damn, we wind ourselves up about the most remarkable things. 

It’s all a question of perspective. The main problem is that our perspective (the glorious writer) doesn’t match the rest of the world. We have a schedule! Doesn’t the world get that? We have deadlines! The thing is, the more you freak out over your novel (whatever stage you’re at) the slower the process will become.

So here are at least 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel starts to freak you out.

ONE: Do something that’s worth freaking out over. If you’re scared of heights, go skydiving! I guarantee that facing down something worthy of being freaked by will put your novel in perspective.

TWO: Play tiddlywinks. I don’t know what it is… Maybe it’s the comical seriousness required to get the little suckers in the cup. Takes your mind off things.

THREE: Remove all deadline. Obliterate them. Don’t set them!

FOUR: Get some puppy therapy! Even watching this video will make you smile. So go get some!!

FIVE: Go rock-climbing or scuba-diving. There’s something about these two sports that will put you in an almost meditative state. Blissful. I promise. Get to it.

SIX: Get a mix of people you like, love and maybe not like so much and go play paintball! Shoot the folk you don’t like and blame your buddy. Yeah, baby!

SEVEN: Watch a whole day of TV! Sod it!! TWO DAYS! Get a box set of something awesome and watch every episode back-to-back.

EIGHT: Go on a course. Choose something you’re fascinated in, something unrelated to your book, something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Make sure it’s a real class with real people, not online. Climb right into the subject. Boots and all.

NINE: SING! Doesn’t matter if you can’t. Really it doesn’t. Just open your lungs like a parrot at dusk and squawk! If you like, join a choir and make a habit of it. Your noise is too great for the shower! Get it out there!!

TEN: Go to a tap dance class. I bet there is research somewhere that proves that tap dancing is the most liberating of all the dance forms. There is something remarkable about making music with your feet.

ELEVEN: Get a full on, no messing, hot-stone massage.

TWELVE: Pick up a favourite book by your favourite author, find a coffee shop, take your shoes off and enjoy.

Last I looked, writing a novel was supposed to be fun. So snap open the goodie bag and jump in the puddle… doesn’t matter what you do, but whatever it is, keep calm… it’s just a novel.

Add mellow to your writing day today…
Tina

 

Just get it done! Finish your novel already.

Finish Your Novel!When you’ve been working on a number of projects for what seems like years, including trying to finish your novel, you’ll try anything to get traction and move forward. That’s what humans do. Trouble is, we don’t focus on one thing and work it until the end, we try a dozen things at once!

Ever decided that you wanted to lose a bit of weight? Have you ever just stopped eating too much? No, you’ve bought books, gone to therapy, started a bunch of prescribed diets, maybe gone to the gym, fretted about standing on the scales every day at exactly the right time with absolutely nothing on… When all you had to do was burn more than you ate. But when you really want to do something and you can’t seem to get traction, you look for any and all solutions. And in case one doesn’t work, you run two or three or six in parallel.

In the writing world, that means working on non-fiction, short stories, a screenplay, the novel, building a website, going on courses, doing research for everything…

All you really need to do is sit down, chill out a bit, focus on the most important piece of work, get that done AND OUT THERE, and then move onto the next thing.

Now, once you’re in the flow of writing and you have a few projects on the go, then knock your blue spotted socks off and go for it. But when you have too much going on and aren’t finishing anything, don’t do it. Just don’t risk it. Don’t overload yourself.

Most likely, you already have a day job along with a pile of other family commitments, so it makes perfect sense for your mind to shut down when you try to pile half a dozen writing projects into the mix. You probably already have too much going on.

Choose ONE project. Get it finished. Move to the next one.

Now, your natural instinct might be to say that your novel is the most important thing. Stop everything else and focus on that. But it might not be! It might be the half dozen stories that are almost ready for sale. Maybe it’s the Kindle book you published but haven’t pushed.

The mental pressure of unfinished work builds a barrier distracting you from moving on and focusing on the project you do perceive as being most important.

So work out what unfinished work might be stopping you finishing your novel (writing work, not the garden shed clear-out) and sort it.  List everything you need to get done, and then sit down and work on each one until it’s FINISHED and you can cross it off the list.

Philip Roth said: “The road to hell is paved with Works-In-Progress!”

I’m inclined to agree!

Get it done today. Finish something.
Tina

LOVE writing? LOVE feedback! 5 ways to get the most out of it

Be brave. Pick a tough editor. The feedback will do your book good!

Feedback from a professional is the lifeblood of great writing. You can spend years on what you think is an absolute marvel but without feedback from people who know what they’re talking about (not your mother, best buddy or 3rd cousin Jethro) you’ll never know if there are gaps in your plot or holes in your characters. All you’ll know – if you put the book to market without feedback – is that people aren’t responding to it. You’ll know that something is wrong, but you won’t know what.

Now of course, sending your novel or short story to a ruthless, picky professional can be damn scary, but if you’re scared to send it out to ONE person to read critically, how do you think you’ll handle putting that same work online or on Amazon for it be shredded – or even worse – ignored by the public!?

You have to grow to LOVE feedback. Seek it out. Find the toughest, meanest, glass-eyed editors and beg them to leave mercy at the door! Don’t ask people who love you for feedback. Your mother will tell you it’s wonderful. Your best buddy will take pity on you and get you drunk. Your 3rd cousin, Jethro will probably ask for a loan.

Go to the professionals. Ask for honest feedback. Then do the following to make sure you can do something with it:

ONE: Let your book go. You have to. Once you hand it over to a professional, you need to detach yourself from it. If you don’t, the feedback you get might feel horribly personal. But when an editor says – your characters are weak and limp. She really is saying YOUR CHARACTERS are weak and limp. Not you. But if you are too entwined with your book, you’ll risk taking feedback personally and it could break you.

TWO: Listen! This is important. Really listen to what a good editor has to say. These people have read, reviewed, studied, considered, edited, re-written hundreds of books and short stories. You have written… what? How many? One? Three? Maybe 10 if you’re on a roll? A professional editor knows their beans. Listen to them.

THREE: Take their recommendations seriously. Don’t just THINK about them. Implement them. What’s the point of great feedback if you’re going to ignore it?

FOUR: Think for yourself. On one hand I say listen and take the editor’s recommendations seriously, but you also need to think for yourself. The very first novel I wrote (never published – still on a shelf) I included every suggestion the editor made. It ended up not sounding like me at all. So listen to everything, then do rewrites based on the feedback, not mindlessly including it.

FIVE: Make sure you give your best work to the editor. Don’t give your book or short story to an editor because you can’t work out what to do next. If your plot or characters are broken, do the work, fix them, then get the editor in. Your name will be on the cover after all.

Bottom line… Grow a thick skin! Feedback is part of the process. Don’t shortcut the process.

Happy growth spurt today!
Tina